Peru faces human rights complaint over Newmont gold mine

LIMA, March 11 Mon Mar 11, 2013 8:59pm EDT

LIMA, March 11 (Reuters) - Anti-mining activists have filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights accusing Peru's government of rights abuses during protests against one of Latin America's biggest mining projects, a protest leader said on Monday.

The legal move could further stall efforts to revive U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corp's $5 billion Minas Conga project, which President Ollanta Humala's administration put on hold last August following months of protests in the northern highland region of Cajamarca.

Ydelso Hernandez, who leads a group of peasant farmers opposed to the mine, said a group of lawyers would travel to Washington next week to address the human rights body about the suit, which was filed last year.

"We filed the lawsuit because the state -- in using repression and abuse to put down the protests against the Conga megaproject -- violated the rights of peasant and indigenous groups," Hernandez said on Monday.

Five protesters were killed in Cajamarca in clashes with police last July. [ID: nL2E8I5DV4]

Humala's administration has blamed "extremists" for stirring up unrest and inciting violence for political gain.

It is unclear when the commission, which is part of the 35-member Organization of American States (OAS), could decide on whether it would consider the case.

The regional government of Cajamarca, which has been active in leading protests, would also join the lawsuit, said Segundo Matta, an adviser with the Cajamarca government.

Farmers say they fear the project will cause contamination and ruin water sources essential to their agricultural livelihoods.

Newmont has said it is building water reservoirs for the community and that the mining project itself -- essentially an expansion of the Yanacocha mine in Cajamarca -- won't go forward without local support.

Mining Minister Jorge Merino said late last year the project "must go forward." [ID: nL1E8NKASG]

While Humala has been in power, at least 24 people have died in social conflicts. Human rights groups have pressured him to stop security forces killing protesters.

Newmont could not be reached for comment on the filing on Monday.

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